Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguistics professor who gets called in to help when 12 mysterious UFOs land at seemingly random points on the planet. Her job is to try and communicate with the mysterious beings inside in order to ascertain what it is they want. The stakes are upped, however, when Banks has to bring everyone together in order to avoid the unthinkable.
Narratively speaking, Arrival is far from perfect – i.e. how Banks seemingly has the processing power of a 1000 supercomputers, or how the aliens don’t seem to care that much when things go a little bit awry – but the overall sentiment, along with the subtle way in which it’s conveyed, brings a welcome breath of fresh air to a genre which continues to prove that it still has something to say.
Arrival and Villeneuve’s preceding flick, Sicario, are very much two different films: one deals with the implausible, while the other is very much grounded in contemporary reality. However, Arrival shares more with its gritty older sibling that you might think.
Despite Arrival’s high sci-fi subject matter, it too feels very much grounded in reality. Of course, this is in part due to the script and the performances, but it’s also down to the way it looks: the film is largely bathed in dark and monotone colour pallets, which help to bring home its sobering message – it still manages to look pretty spectacular at times, too.
Amy Adams really seems to be killing it lately. First Nocturnal Animals and now this? She sure can pick ’em. Her character here is largely subdued, in part due to the heavy emotional weight that it seems will always be a part of her. Just like the direction and script, this type of delivery works wonders with the grounded nature of the film, and brings a solemn weight to a genre that is often devoid of such sentiment.
Hollywood not-quite-a-megastar Jeremy Renner also stars in the film, and plays cheeky supernerd Ian Donnelly. To be honest, though, any other well-known actor could have done just as good a job. That’s not to say his performance is bad, exactly, but his role isn’t especially demanding.
In a few words…
A refreshing take on the sci-fi genre with a profoundly relevant message at its heart.